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Ploughing attracts 300,000

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Ploughing attracts 300,000 thumbnailPresident Michael D. Higgins pictured as he cut the ribbon to officially open the 2017 National Ploughing Championships at Screggan yesterday

HUNDREDS of thousands of people were pouring into Screggan this week for the National Ploughing Championships.

The fine weather on opening day yesterday (Tuesday, September 19) prompted the organisers to predict that this year's three-day event would surpass the 2017 attendance of 283,000 people.

Hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses around Offaly were booked out for the Ploughing and many more people took advantage of the opportunity to rent out rooms in their own homes.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were the special guests at the opening on Tuesday which was delayed slightly because the President was viewing the horse ploughing.

He revealed afterwards that a brother of his own grandfather was a ploughman who had emigrated to Australia in 1862 and won ploughing matches in Queensland.

In a finely crafted address which was delivered after he was greeted by the choir of Killina Presentation Secondary School singing 'The Song of Ploughing', President Higgins spoke out strongly for rural Ireland and farming.

"It is a valuable way of life, needing nurture, support, understanding and social policies as well as economic and price interventions," he said.

"Rural depopulation has contributed [to], and has reinforced, the loss of services such as post offices, shops, banks, pubs, restaurants, health services," he said.

"And all those services in the commercial sector, I ask you as President to remember, you were sustained over generations by the loyalty of people in the rural areas and you owe it to continue."

Also at the Ploughing, one of Offaly's most important employers, Bord na Mona, announced the establishment of a bioenergy division.

Farmers will be encouraged to plant willow as an energy crop and the energy company will enter into 15-year contracts with growers.

Bord na Mona also hopes to grow eucalyptus as an energy crop on cutaway bog, a move which could safeguard the future of hundreds of jobs when the company ceases harvesting peat.

Galway All-Ireland hurling star Joe Canning was among the many star attractions at the Ploughing and thousands of people queued up for selfies with the man and to have hurleys signed by him.

There was musical entertainment yesterday from the Garda Band, the Willoughby Brothers and Derek Ryan.

A blessing of the site was conducted by Bishop Michael Smith, Catholic Bishop of Meath, and Bishop Pat Storey, Bishop of Meath and Kildare in the Church of Ireland.

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